Postgraduate funding remains a difficult issue
Almost every one of Durham’s finalists will have answered this question at least once: what are your plans for next year? For those who haven’t been able to jump into the generous arms of one of London’s big-name recruiters, the daunting prospect of a vacant year with no structure has driven many to apply for postgraduate studies.
According to the Guardian (April, 2012) the number of postgraduate students has increased by 67,000 over the last 5 years, a rise which may be linked to the increasingly limited job prospects since the recession of 2008. But is this academic delay tactic the most financially sustainable solution?
Whilst the average Durham undergraduate can breathe easy in financial with the provisions of the Student Loans Company, most London-based postgraduates must face the prospect of paying high rents, expensive travel fares, and astronomical course fees, of <£19,250 at Imperial College (London), with no Government-structured loan plan to cover these costs.
Although options are available, such as Barclay’s career development loans, these are incredibly restricted and come with high interest rates. Some institutions/employers do offer scholarships/funding, such as Teach First, however these places are competitive. The Guardian states that most postgraduate students must rely on family or friends in order to fund their studies, an option which is not viable for the majority of postgraduate hopefuls.
However, postgraduate education is receiving increasing recognition for its role in driving innovation, entrepreneurship and growth within the UK economy (David Docherty, of the postgraduate report team of 2010). The think tank Centre Forum has recently proposed a new Government postgraduate loans system in which the government could face minimal immediate costs whilst standing to benefit from future increased income tax revenues from well-qualified (and thus high-earning) individuals.
For now, however, this year’s batch of Durham graduates would be advised to think carefully about the potential benefits which they could gain from their chosen postgraduate course, as it may not be such a small price to pay for future prosperity.